TOUGH new measures aim to tackle the metal thieves who are causing misery across Wearside.
Under Operation Tornado, scrap metal dealers across the North East are being invited to sign up to a scheme which orders sellers to provide proof of their identity.
They hope the move will make it easier to trace the crooks whose thefts have halted Metros and trains, seen residents have their roofs ransacked and a memorial to Wearside’s dead flogged for scrap.
As part of the new scheme, traders will need to prove their identity by showing a photo card driving licence, passport or utility bill with a national ID card before flogging any metal.
Chief Inspector Robin Edwards, Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) lead on metal thefts, said: “The trial is one of a number of measures that is currently being explored to restrict the sale and movement of stolen metal.
“It has been designed not to inhibit those dealers that operate legitimate businesses but to remove unscrupulous dealers who operate outside the law.”
Acpo, British Transport Police (BTP) and Northumbria and Durham police hope about 240 registered scrap metal dealers across the region will sign up to the scheme.
Ian Hetherington, British Metal Recycling Association (BMRA) boss, is also backing the trial scheme, which will run for six months.
He said: “Metal theft is a real problem for the metals industry, and BMRA continues to advise government on the issue.
“It’s important to note that many of the problems encountered by legitimate metal recyclers lie with the ineffective enforcement of existing regulations and the proliferation of the illegal, unregulated trade, and not with the majority who operate highly regulated, licensed and permitted sites.
“This is an opportunity for the metals recycling industry to trial some of the strengthened measures being adopted, coupled with what we hope will be robust police efforts to prevent legitimate businesses being diverted away from those applying the Operation Tornado measures and into the hands of non-compliant operators.”
In July, Anthony Roberts, 18, of Greta Terrace, and John Ferguson, 37, of Athol Road, admitted handling stolen goods in relation to a war memorial which was sold for scrap for £125.
Roberts and Ferguson claimed they found the 4ft by 2ft Grangetown Cemetery plaque on a piece of grassland. They then traded it in for the meagre sum of cash.